Saturday, May 31, 2014

All Mothers Are Real

Mother's Day has come and gone, but the day before that a little girl asked me a question that needed an answer.  She asked me, "are you Preemie Girl's real mother?" Now, I don't know why little girls would even think to ask such questions, but I would make a smart guess that they learn about these words and ideas from the adults around them.  I don't think an innocent child would know that there is such a thing as a "real" mom (or dad, for that matter), if they are not made aware of the difference or this was not pointed out to them by...yes, adults. But that is another story.

The question was asked in a very natural way by an inquisitive and precocious child. I was not offended.  My own daughter too had said to me a few times in the past, "you are my mommy, right"?  I would always give her a tight hug and say, "yes, of course".  Although I have already talked to Preemie Girl about her birth mother,  I know that her 5 year old mind still does not have the capacity to fully understand that I am not her biological mother. We have never hidden the fact that she is adopted, and her pre-school teachers know this.  Unfortunately some parents can be insensitive, so that  two or three classmates have asked her who is her real mother.  One persistent child even asked me!  When this happens, I would teach Preemie Girl to answer that she has a birth mother who is now an angel in heaven, and a mommie here on earth (me), and that all mothers are real.   I used to get a little anxious (and annoyed) every time she is asked these questions, but I know I shouldn't feel this way because it's not as if I am a new adoptive mom.  After all, I have a 23 year old son (Big Brother) whom I raised since he was 5 months old, and who was basically bullied by some classmates just because he was adopted.  In one of his 2nd grade social studies class, an unthinking teacher defined "real" mother as "the mother who carried you in her tummy" and "real" father as the one who was with your mother when you were in her tummy!  You can imagine the questions that came after, not only from my 7 year old son, but from the other children whose families the teacher later realized, were far from the "norm".  My son who by then already knew his birth mother came home from school with the question of "who is my real father".  My mom was so angry with the teacher, that I had to go to the school for a parent-teacher meeting for clarification. The difference between my son and daughter is that my son has an ongoing relationship with his birth mother, while my daughter's mother died after giving birth and the family abandoned the baby two or three days after she was born.  And so, when questions about motherhood arises, I worry that I am not doing enough to make my little girl grow up feeling a complete person, secure in her identity and in our unconditional love for her. I want her to have a strong sense of belonging to our family, no matter where she came from.  It makes no difference to me that she did not come out of my body and we have no biological link.  I have loved her the moment I saw her.  I am the only mother she will ever know.  She is my child.  I am her "real" mom. Nothing and no one can change that.

What makes a "real" Mommy?

Does a woman have to give birth to a child to be called a real mom?  Does the absence of a bloodline make anyone less of a mother or a daughter? Of course not! I am not trying to redefine motherhood, and many may disagree with what I say, but I believe that all women who chooses to love, raise and nurture children are real mothers, no matter how their children came into being.  Motherhood is not defined and limited by biology, genetics or any other science.  It is defined by love, physical and emotional care by a mother for her children. My children know that I am there for them 24/7, and when they are sick, I stay up and hold them in my arms until they feel better. I bring them to school everyday until they are big enough to go on their own, I help with homework, accompany them to sports and dance lessons, I am their greatest fan and cheerleader, and so very much more.

How did I answer my friend's daughter? I said, yes, I am Preemie Girl's real mom. I remember telling the same thing to an adoptive daughter of one of our hospital staff , when they were visiting my office a few weeks ago. I told her that even though her birth mother carried her for 9 months and gave birth to her, her adoptive mom is still her "real mom" because she is the one who is carrying her for the rest of her life.

Yes, I am an adoptive mom and I am as real a mother to my children as any biological one.

And the truth is, without exception...All Mothers Are Real.


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